Our financial year is drawing to a close and the last month has been spent on preparing for our auditors and writing the director’s report to convey our company’s financial health to our investors. As I was sifting through our accountant’s work, it suddenly struck me that my health was as important as the company’s. What if I wasn’t around next year to do this? I decided on the spot that I would make a conscious effort to get fit.
The very next day I changed my diet to reduce white foods, increased my intake of fresh fruits and vegetables and added a lot more protein to my plate. I got a personal trainer and started working out in my lunch hour and made-up the time by eating my lunch at my desk. The first one week was miserable – my tummy was upset (I won’t go into the specifics), muscles I didn’t know I had ached and my skin and hair were perpetually greasy (despite three showers a day and washing my hair every night). Three weeks after I started my tune completely changed – I was greeting my daughter with a smile in the mornings, working at 80% efficiency even after 12 hours at my desk (usually I drop to about 60% at this point), my clothes fit a little bit better and my skin glowed. If I had given up in the first one week (I was sorely tempted to several times) I would have never reaped all these wonderful benefits.
I’m sure all of you are wondering where I’m going with all this and you’re not interested in my bowel movements or the quality of my skin. What I want to say, in a very roundabout way, is that change is usually good. Change keeps us young and maintains the spirit of a start-up for any organization. Obviously, the change I’m talking about is one which is deliberate and has been decided on to achieve a specific purpose.
The toughest part of bringing about change in any organization, corporate or otherwise (sometimes even at home) is selling it to the rest of your team (getting kids to accept that they have to make their beds before breakfast). We unfortunately cannot skip this step because the people working on this change, especially in customer-facing positions, need to be 100% on board for an idea to work. There seems to be a lot of literature on how to introduce change into an organization, so I’m not going to try and compete with the management gurus, rather I will list out what steps I have found to be effective:
- Decide on where you want to be, then let your core team participate in deciding how to get there (before you finally freeze on the process). The benefit here is that the core team feels committed enough to work effectively on the process implementation (even if all their suggestions are not incorporated). Once the core team is on-board they will be able to pass on their belief in the change to the rest of their team. The tough part is deciding on who to include in this round-table discussion.
- Document the expected change along with the process prior to starting implementation. The benefit here is everyone is clear on what the end goal is, how you plan to get there, what is expected of each of them. In addition, you can use this documentation for future reference. The disadvantage here is creating documentation obviously prolongs the gestation period.
- Encourage feedback from all players, core or otherwise before, during and after process implementation. If you can get feedback from customers, it is even better. The benefit here is you can identify a potential roadblock or issue either before it happens or immediately after and this will help reduce any negative impact. The obvious disadvantage is potential chaos, however, a well-planned system for collection and analysis of feedback, followed by systematic implementation of the findings should help align things.
- Hold a postmortem discussion. It’s important that the discussions are held bottom-up, so that when the core team does it’s analysis, the information available is ‘real,relevant and comprehensive’. The benefit here is you can figure out what worked and what didn’t, whether you achieved the ultimate goal and if the timelines and other specifics were realistic and viable. This information will also be a useful point of reference in the future. The drawback is, not everyone is open to a critical discussion, especially if they feel it reflects badly on them, so it’s tough to get a true and fair picture, particularly if the end goal is more subjective than objective.
It would be great to hear what process do you use to bring about change?
Any ideas on how to I refine and simplify the above method?